What Is a Scope of Work? (Plus How To Write One)

Updated September 30, 2022

A scope of work informs contractors and subcontractors of their responsibilities for upcoming construction projects. This ensures everyone knows what the project entails and the goals they aim to meet. A scope of work should include enough details regarding the project's deliverables, payment process and milestones to ensure a smooth project from start to finish. 

In this article, we explain what a scope of work is, what to include in one and how to write your own.

What is a scope of work?

A scope of work details the responsibilities, timelines and expectations of an upcoming construction project. It should outline which tasks the team will complete, the employees assigned to specific tasks, deadlines to meet and other significant details about the project.

Project managers may hold meetings often to review the scope of work and to inform contractors or sub-contractors of the specifics of the project. These meetings are a great way for contractors to provide suggestions about the project and recommend timeline adjustments as needed. After the meeting, you can implement the plan outlined in your scope of work and use it to track employees' progress.

Related: How To Create a Project Timeline in 8 Easy Steps

How to write a scope of work

Your scope of work should be a document for project managers and employees to reference easily when they need additional details on important dates, deliverables or objectives. Here are five steps to writing a scope of work:

1. Establish the goals of the project

You can meet with the clients to establish their goals for the project and use these to create individual goals that motivate and encourage employees to contribute quality work. Consider making goals for each department or contractor type. For instance, you can provide specific goals for the plumbing team and different goals for the electrical contractors. This gives each of them certain milestones to work toward.

2. Break down objectives and deliverables

Use general and simple language to break down the specifics of the project and what's expected of everyone involved. This can help all parties better understand key project specifications. It also grants them the ability to ask questions for clarity. You can then break down the requirements and specifications provided by clients.

Explain the project's objectives and the deliverables you plan to submit to clients to give everyone a clear idea of what they're working toward. Having objectives and deliverables outlined keeps you and contractors informed as you evaluate employees' progress and ensure the project is on track to hit specific milestones and meet clients' needs.

3. Build a schedule and timeline

Once you clearly understand who's completing certain projects, you can schedule dates you expect employees to complete tasks. Reach out to current or previous contractors to better understand how long certain tasks usually take to create more accurate and reasonable timelines.

Try to remember that the timeline you create for this project should be tentative to allow contractors or subcontractors time to make adjustments according to their needs or schedules. Your timeline should include task deadlines, the project's deadline and dates to check regarding the project's progress.

Related: How To Create a Project Timeline in 8 Easy Steps

4. Assign responsibilities to team members

When you know the ‌contractors you'd like to hire for the project, it's time to assign responsibilities to individual employees within these teams. Contact the contractors you already know to hire them for these projects, then gain their insight into which subcontractors to hire for specific tasks. If these contractors are unavailable to work, ask for recommendations on others you can hire. They may have connections they're willing to refer.

Related: How To Define Your Team's Roles and Responsibilities

5. Retrieve the necessary signatures

The scope of work should include a final section with the contractor's and the project manager's signatures. Having contractors and subcontractors sign off on the scope of work confirms they’ve read, reviewed and agreed to the details and obligations of the contract. You can also have them sign off after completing certain milestones or objectives to confirm they correctly completed each task on time.

What to include in a scope of work

A scope of work should give everyone involved in the project a clear idea of what it entails to ensure they complete their tasks correctly and on time. Elements to include in a scope of work in construction include:

  • Overview of the project: A brief statement of one to three sentences summarizing the project and objectives you'd like it to meet.

  • Project deliverables: A detailed outline of the project's targets, projections and objectives. Include relevant information to help contractors gain a clear understanding of what's required of them.

  • Project schedule: A timeline of upcoming deadlines, meetings and other important dates. It should list each task, the person assigned to it and its due date.

  • Project scope and goals: A list or description of goals set for the project and milestones of when you expect employees to finish each task.

  • Project management and payment details: A brief statement containing payment details, like payment due dates, contract specifications, legal requirements and change orders.

  • Contractor signatures: A few lines stating that the contractors agree to what's expected of them and to deliver their tasks within the specified deadlines.

Related: What Is Scope in Project Management?

Tips for writing a scope of work

Use these tips to help you successfully write an effective scope of work for upcoming construction projects:

  • Use simple language. Make the scope of work universally understood by including simple and basic wording for all parties to understand. This helps limit any misunderstanding of the project's details and expectations. If you need to include any complex vocabulary, provide a glossary section to define any difficult terminology.

  • Add visual aids for clarity. To give a clear and comprehensive understanding of the project and its goals, use visual aids. This can include sketches, photos, models or graphs that help all contractors better picture the project.

  • Be open and transparent. Schedule regular meetings for updates on the project's progress and inform contractors of any client updates. Being collaborative and transparent helps everyone stay informed at all times and increases the likelihood that you'll deliver quality projects to clients.


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